Residents concerned over prison expansion

July 22, 2008 6:45:57 PM PDT
Blindsided is how some Raleigh residents say they feel after news Central Prison plans to expand the mental health hospital off of Western Boulevard.Crews there just recently removed trees that served as a buffer between the prison grounds and the neighborhood.

Representatives from the prison met with residents of the Boylan Heights neighborhood Tuesday night at Central Prison to explain the $151 million project.

Boylan Heights residents wanted to know why they weren't notified of the construction and what will be done to keep a buffer between them and the inmates.

Unbeknownst to hundreds of Boylan Heights residents--the new mental health hospital has been on the books for years.

Now they're upset they weren't notified directly and concerned about their new neighbors --at least 200 additional inmates.

"Literally over the weekend they've cleared, cut the trees, they've demolished buildings, which is in their rights. However I believe the railroad or the state should have notified the citizens-- it came as a surprise to everyone," resident Chris Johnson said.

Their biggest concern though, the destruction of a tree buffer separating Central's campus from one of Raleigh's oldest and most historic neighborhoods.

Officials say a safer and nicer looking buffer will go up when construction is finished in five years. DOC spokesman Keith Acree explained the purpose of the gathering before they met Tuesday. "The plan is to meet with neighbors and share with them plans and designs and show what the project is going to look like when it's done," Acree said. "It's going to be a vast improvement from what was here before."

Acree says it's a state of the art facility, simply a new medical building replacing an old, aging, obsolete one.

"It will have double perimeter fencing, probably more secure, most secure facility in the state," he said.

Officials with the DOC say they went about the construction approval process by the book. As far as they know the planning department did notify residents with property backing up to the facility.


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